Upon hearing of a destructive tornado in Joplin, Missouri, I watched a good friend clean out his closet and dresser drawers and place his clothes in multiple trash bags. “They have nothing,” he said when I asked him why he was planning on just giving away hundreds of dollars worth of clothes to people he didn’t even know. “I’ll get more when I need them.” He headed toward the devastation and gave away all the items in his trash bags.
Without fear of being naked, hungry or empty, he clothed the needy. I don’t know if I could do that. What would I wear tomorrow?
The natural inclination for most people in our culture is have nice things for the sole purpose of having more nice things. To make money to ultimately make more money. Although they may not look it, often these people are the hungriest, the emptiest, the loneliest. They are always striving for satisfaction but are afraid to ever be without the things that never quite fill them up. Afraid to be without surplus, we often strive for control and predicted comfort.
In today’s readings, we have two major themes that stood out to me. Hunger and hoarding.
In the first reading we find that Elijah trusts that the Lord will provide for his meal. He doesn’t try to find money to buy a meal. He doesn’t tell the woman whom he meets to go buy more food. He just simply instructs her to make bread with the little ingredients she has. And she does. And they are fed abundantly. No longer hungry, no longer empty. The Lord provided.
The Psalm also compliments this theme with a reminder that the Lord gives food to the hungry. He also gives sight to the blind, sets captives free, protects and loves. He takes care of His people.
Now onto hoarding. The Gospel paints a picture of the scribes living lavishly, in abundance. Jesus watches the rich give much money away, but only giving out of their surplus – like the money they really didn’t need anyway. Meanwhile, a poor woman gives just a few cents, but could probably use that money more than the rich people. Jesus tells us that the few cents are more to God than the large sums given by the wealthy.
I wonder whom it hurt more? Did the poor woman cringe as she let those coins slide out of her palm? Or did the wealthy people close their eyes as the sacks of money slipped from their grip?
God calls us to live with assurance that He will provide. He doesn’t call us to build up surplus in order to somehow control our satisfaction. He calls us to hunger and thirst for Him and to rely that He will give us what we need, when we need it. Be like the poor woman, empty yourself of material things in order be filled up with His love.